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Film Reviews by Lisa Blanck
Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1
| Saturday, 07.22.2023, 03:55 AM |   (409 views)

Dead reckoning has two meanings. The first is a maritime term used to chart a course. You use an object's initial known position, then apply speed, direction and time, and thus determine the object's new location in relation to your own. The second meaning applies to the ability of humans and animals to pick a starting point, walk a distance, and navigate back to their starting point.

But what happens when the object, or the starting point, are both invisible? What happens if they only exist in cyberspace? And what happens if the object is aware of it's own existence and is determined to be the winner in the ultimate game, manipulating what you see, hear and feel so that you can trust absolutely nothing?

That is the premise of Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1. The movie opens on a Russian submarine in the Bering Sea, operating in stealth capacity. It's invisible to the enemy ships. In fact, it has “crept up on every navy in the world.” According to the Captain of the Sevastapol, it's “the most deadly killing machine, impossible to find.” And yet, something named 'the Entity' manages to do just that. The Entity, an artificial intelligence more deadly, more powerful than the Sevastapol, is aware that around the neck of one of the crew on that sub, hangs the key to ending it's own existence. A cruciform key, one half of a set. And with some technical slight of hand, the Sevastapol and her crew is dispatched with deadly force, into the icy waters of the Bering Sea.

MI:DR Part 1 sends Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the IMF team, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) around the globe: Amsterdam, DC, Rome, the Arabian Desert and the Austrian Alps. Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) is back with Ethan, in deep cover as always. She is in possession of another item that is important to the Entity, so Faust has also become the target of multiple organizations, with a huge bounty on her head. Once Ethan finds out that Ilsa is in peril, he sets out to find her. His mission becomes personal. As always, the portrayals are so well conceived that you believe these characters truly care about each other, would sacrifice themselves just so the others will survive.

The IMF oath: We live in the shadows. For those we hold close and those we never meet. They have held this oath for more than 30 years. Except this time, when Luther states the oath, it's changed to 'we live and die in the shadows.' If you don't catch that, you miss the foreshadowing.

A new team member is added to the brilliant band of brothers: Grace (Hayley Atwell). Grace is an amusing master pickpocket, easily distracting men with her looks while letting her fingers do their business. Grace, too, has been sent on a mission, and crosses paths with Ethan and the IMF. She thinks she knows all she needs to know about her employer, but is sadly mistaken. And that mistake may very well cost her her own life.

A second piece of dead reckoning comes with an absolutely amazing stunt by Cruise, involving a motorcycle, a parachute and a leap of faith off a precipice towards a train with no brakes. Frankly, Cruise must live on adrenaline because that stunt is truly death defying. Benji has deduced where the train, barreling through the Alps, is supposed to be, at a certain time. But the AI, with the help of Gabriel (Esai Morales) has thrown a wrench into Benji's calculations.

Gabriel is the Entity's chief villain, though there are a number of bad guys, and really bad girls, spread throughout MI:DR Part 1. Without a doubt, the Entity is bad guy number one. The Entity is pulling everyone's strings. The Entity would prefer a world without humans, or with humans that will just do it's bidding. And Gabriel, and his henchmen, are more than happy to make that apocalypse happen.

The film is filled with wild car chases and train decouplings, fake-outs and double crosses. Let's not overlook the amazing use of masks, which have played an integral part of MI since the days of Mr. Phelps. MI:DR Part 1 has masks in full force, more so than this reviewer remembers in earlier Cruise MI's. A welcome hearkening back to those early days of the IMF. You don't know who is real and who is wearing a false face in this exciting episode. And that includes those characters not actually masked.

Along those lines, this may be the first MI that Hunt actually unmasks himself, showing the audience his vulnerability. Perhaps because he's faced with an enemy who is artificial, it's time for his own mask to come down. He directly tells one character that he would sacrifice his own life to save theirs.

The danger of this AI is real.  With the current discussions in government and business, the danger of AI may well become real in our own world.  We truly do not know the potential OR the power of artificial intelligence.  

So, based on the end of MI:DR Part 1, will we be able to use dead reckoning to accurately determine where and how MI: DR Part 2 will begin? Will we remember the necessary details, or will we, as usual, just roll with the sometimes muddled storyline? With a runtime of 2:43 we're going to be tasked to remember many important details. That may be the only mission we may not be able to accept, so let's hope that Cruise et al do some sort of catch-up for those of us suffering memory lapse.

All photos: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Skydance

Lisa Blanck is the Associate Editor and Movie Reviewer for In  Her background includes 30+ years of digital editing for WESH2 News and WKMG News.  She also edits on-air promotional spots for Matter Of Fact, the number one nationally syndicated news and information program.  For more than 30 years she has covered the Florida Film Festival and the World Peace Film Festival, with additional experience in advertising, marketing, promotions and live special events at MTV Networks.  She was previously a columnist for the Focus In Newspaper. 

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